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COVID-19 threatens gender equality; interventions needed to keep girls in school

Following the release of an International Labour Organization (ILO) report on how the COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting young people, especially women, Senator Win Gatchalian says the Department of Education (DepEd) should have a targeted approach to prevent more girls from dropping out of school as we enter into the final stretch of enrollment.


CEBU CITY, Philippines – Schoolgirls chat to while away time, 27 Sept 2019. Senator Win Gatchalian says the Department of Education (DepEd) should have a targeted approach to prevent more girls from dropping out of school as the country enters into the final stretch of enrollment for the new school year, amid the COVID-19 crisis. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

At this point, class advisers in charge of enrollment should be mobilized to target vulnerable girls at risk of dropping out, Gatchalian said. He added that DepEd should implement its Learning Continuity Plan (LCP) in a way that allows flexibility and self-paced learning, especially for women who shoulder the burden of care.

While the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report 2020 revealed that the Philippines retains the smallest gender gap in Asia, Gatchalian said the country’s gains on gender equality would suffer without interventions to keep girls in school.

Gatchalian explained that girls’ enrollment tends to decline in the midst of crises. He recalled that when the Asian crisis of 1998-1999 hit the Philippines, secondary school enrollment rates fell by 8 percent for girls and nearly 7 percent for boys.

The lawmaker also shared that during the Ebola outbreak, girls aged 12-17 in Sierra Leone were 16 percentage points less likely to be in school when classes reopened. Lessons from the Ebola crisis also revealed that when girls drop out of school, they are more exposed to teenage pregnancy, child labor, physical and sexual abuse. Girls also tend to take on the burden of care-related tasks, which affect their ability to continue their education in the long term.

Gatchalian also said DepEd should have an inclusive policy on allowing pregnant learners and young mothers back to school, especially since they already face stigma and discrimination that hinder their access to education.

If more girls drop out of school and fail to complete their education, Gatchalian warned that they will not be able to access opportunities to make a decent living, which increases their likelihood of falling into poverty.

“Sa nalalapit na pagbubukas ng klase ngayong panahon ng pandemya, dapat siguruhin natin na hindi mapag-iwanan ang mga batang kababaihan dahil kung susuriin natin ang karanasan natin at ng ibang mga bansa, sila ang mas nanganganib na tumigil sa pag-aaral,” said Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.

“Sa mga nalalabing araw ng enrollment, dapat siguruhin natin na ang mga batang kababaihang nangangailangan ay makakapag-parehistro. Dapat maging angkop din sa kanilang mga pangangailangan ang magiging sistema ng pagtuturo,” he added.

Enrollment period in public schools is extended until July 15, while classes are set to open on August 24.